- Joe McDonald, Reporter, ESPNBoston.com
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After the Boston Red Sox traded Kelly Shoppach to the Cleveland Indians as part of a multi-player deal on Jan. 27, 2006, someone in the Sox's front office told him not to forget what it's like to play in Boston because there could come a day when he would return to the organization that originally drafted him.
That came to fruition Monday, when the Red Sox signed the 31-year-old catcher to a one-year deal worth $1.35 million, plus bonus incentives. Shoppach said he's excited to return to Boston.
"Definitely," Shoppach told ESPNBoston.com in a phone interview Wednesday morning. "First and foremost, for any player, is to have the opportunity to win and obviously in Boston they're going to do everything it takes to win. Quite honestly, that's what the Nation demands and you keep those people happy. I'm really excited to come back there and work with a group of guys who are really talented."
The Red Sox selected Shoppach in the second round of the 2001 amateur draft. He honed his skills and developed in the Sox's farm system and played a total of nine games in Boston in 2005 before he was traded to the Indians as part of a package that brought Coco Crisp to Boston.
"As you grow up and learn how things work in the game and in the business, it is kind of funny and ironic that 10 years later I'm playing in Boston," Shoppach said. "It's ironic how it all works out and in this game you never know what can happen. You just do your job every day the best you can because you never know where you're going to end up."
Shoppach was once considered to be Jason Varitek's successor, and even though that career path changed for Shoppach, he'll now join fellow catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia behind the plate in Boston, essentially replacing Varitek in the backup role.
The team kept the signing under wraps until it was complete, and more than likely it gave Red Sox GM Ben Cherington a chance to first talk with Varitek, who spent the last 15 seasons in Boston.
"He's definitely a Red Sox legend and he deserves all the respect he gets for all the things that he's done as a player and for the organization," Shoppach said of Varitek. "He's such an ambassador for Red Sox Nation and I was very proud and lucky to have an opportunity to play with him and learn from him. Even though it was at a distance, to watch him go about his business every day and a lot of things he did influenced the things I do now."
Talks between the sides were wrapped up last week during the winter meetings in Dallas.
"I think it was a natural fit for what I bring to the table and the need they were looking for," Shoppach said. "I've had the opportunity to work with a few great pitchers and I've been fortunate to learn from them. When I was in Cleveland it was older pitchers I was learning from, and in Tampa it was with young guys who were super talented. I've had the opportunity to work with some really great guys and I hope I'll have some things to offer, not just to Salty but the pitching staff and some of the hitters as well because I've been trying to get these guys out for six years."
During his major league career, Shoppach has played for Terry Francona in Boston, Eric Wedge in Cleveland and Joe Maddon in Tampa. Now, Shoppach will play for Bobby Valentine, with whom he spoke on Tuesday.
"I think it's going to be a great fit," Shoppach said of Boston's new manager. "The guy seems to be a little slapstick funny at times, a little dry sense of humor also, and it seems like he has an idea of how to deal with players. When you're talking about guys at this age, with this caliber and this type of intensity in that kind of atmosphere in Boston, it could be a really nice fit."
Joe McDonald covers the Red Sox and Bruins for ESPNBoston.com.